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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Remy Greasley

'It's been very surreal' Birkenhead charity reacts to Royal visit

The Prince and Princess of Wales took a trip to Birkenhead this afternoon.

Following their visit to the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, they visited a mental health charity in Birkenhead. The Open Door charity, which supports young people across the region, welcomed the Royal couple to their Bloom Building in Birkenhead.

William and Kate arrived in the early afternoon, and spent more than an hour chatting with teenagers about how the charity helped them, as well as with the its leaders, about how they can help expand the creative charity's unprecedented work in the area. Director Lee Pennington founded the Open Door Charity 11 years ago, and said the visit was "surreal".

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Lee told the ECHO: "It's been very surreal but beautiful and for myself and anyone connected to the Open Door charity a moment of huge personal pride, being proud of what we're all involved with and proud of what we're doing.

"Organisationally I think it's a really important milestone - we're regionally a very important part of the mental health system, but our plans and our strategy over the next couple of years is about growing that. A visit like this and at this time is a hugely important way we can potentially achieve that.

Will and Kate speaking to Lee, who founded the charity (Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

"We've been going for just over 11 years. I came up with the idea when I had a period of anxiety and being really down. I thought I'd love to create something that me and my mates could just walk up to and access, and someway mask the mental health and the counselling and the therapy stuff behind an organisation that is the type of place you want to spend your time."

When Lee created the charity he wanted it to be something that was created by young people for young people. One such young person is Reece, a teenager in the charity's Oomoo programme.

Reece, who can't be identified, said the Royal visit "went great." He said: "I can't lie. It was amazing.

"They were actually really down to earth. It went great.

"It was like being heard and it was very nice.

The Prince and Princess of Wales talking to young people at the charity about the Oomoo programme (Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

"Being the talkative person I am, I was hogging up most of the questions but yeah it was nice. I feel privileged to know that the charities surrounding mental health are getting this attention and support.

"It's really nice being here in comparison to being at school, because the people in school the majority of them live with their parents, not in care, and you feel singled out and outcasted. But here I've built a report with who have had similar experiences, it's one of the best things I've been able to experience and I cherish that completely."

Luci Diggory, 23, went to the charity herself when she was younger. Now she serves as a coordinator on its Bazaar programme. She said: "It's just been pure excitement.

"I'm just so proud of the charity and so proud of the work we're doing and how incredible it is that it attracts such special visitors.

Will and Kate speaking to coordinators from the charity (Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

"Having the Prince and Princess here is just so important for the charity itself and the work we're doing so yeah, it's been amazing.

"I actually did the programme myself as a member when I was younger.

"It's been a really incredible journey and something I'm really proud of. Going through your own struggles, when you're in that place you don't think that you ever will get out of it."

Mayor of Wirral Jeff Green told the ECHO the excitement was a big honour, he said: "It is a big honour for Wirral for the Prince of Wales, the future king, coming here to visit us and showing interest in what is an absolutely amazing project.

"They're doing an amazing job. It's really consistent with all I know about the Prince and Princess' work with mental health."

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